Like most gamers in their mid-twenties, I grew up during Cartoon Network’s golden age. At that time the network was running quality, original shows like Ed, Edd, n Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and miniseries like The Clone Wars.
The afternoon belonged to Toonami, which aired popular anime like Dragon Ball Z, Yu Hakusho, Rerouni Kenshin, Gundam Wing and Zoids, as well as more traditional American animation such as Teen Titans, Batman: The Animated Series, and Justice League, while late nights hosted blocks like Adult Swim and the Midnight Run, which aired uncut episodes of Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing, as well as now classic titles like Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Blue Gender, and Fullmetal Alchemist.
"The game assumes that everyone is already familiar with the series, and makes no attempts to explain what’s going on or who the characters are, so much of the dialogue will be unintelligible to the uninitiated."
But like all good things, it didn’t last. Slowly but surely, Cartoon Network’s great shows ended, and Toonami was regulated to smaller and smaller timeslots before being canceled altogether. Like most people my age, I lamented the changes, and moved on. By the time Ben 10 and its successors came along, I was long gone. As a result, I don’t have any nostalgia to draw from when it comes to Ben 10: Omniverse 2, the latest release from D3 Publisher that follows the Cartoon Network show. Still, a good game has the potential to transcend its license if it holds up as a stand-alone entity. Unfortunately, Ben 10: Omniverse 2 is not one of those games.
The 3DS version of Omniverse 2 is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up/platformer that stars the titular Ben Tennyson, a wisecracking teen with the ability to transform into different aliens, each with their own special abilities. If you’re wondering how he acquired this ability or how it plays into the series’ overall storyline and you’re not a fan of the television show, you’re out of luck. The game assumes that everyone is already familiar with the series, and makes no attempts to explain what’s going on or who the characters are, so much of the dialogue will be unintelligible to the uninitiated.
The quick and dirty of it is that Earth is being invaded by the Incurseans, a race of frog-like aliens, and Ben is the only thing standing in the way of complete froggy dominion. Those with pre-existing knowledge of the series will likely get more out of the game’s story, but it’s presented in a fashion that even stalwart fans will find boring. The dialogue largely exists to provide the player with mission objectives and to allow the game’s various characters to crack wise with bad puns, and most players will probably find themselves skipping through these exchanges as quickly as possible so they can get back to the game.
"Generally, the game will lock you into an area, Devil May Cry style, until you are done defeating the enemies that spawn within it, at which point you will be allowed to proceed. Ben’s pretty weak on his own, so you’ll need to use his various alien forms to get an advantage."
Unfortunately, the game itself isn’t much better, and each level follows the same formula, whether you’re infiltrating an Incursean ship or fighting the aliens in the streets of a small town. You’ll guide Ben through fairly linear levels, avoiding bottomless pits and laser cannons, stopping only to fight off the various enemies that attack you. Generally, the game will lock you into an area, Devil May Cry style, until you are done defeating the enemies that spawn within it, at which point you will be allowed to proceed. Ben’s pretty weak on his own, so you’ll need to use his various alien forms to get an advantage.
Unfortunately, only a few of them are any good, and you’ll likely find yourself sticking with three or four aliens for most fights, only switching them out when they’re low on health. The combat system is pretty simple: one button does combos, another does a standalone attack, and the last activates a character’s super ability, which can be charged up by dishing out damage and collecting items that are scattered throughout the level and dropped by enemies. Avoiding hits while keeping your combos going as long as possible is the name of the game as you take damage fairly quickly and getting hit means losing all of the super bar you’ve built up so far. The game does allow you to counter enemy attacks, but the window for doing so is extremely small and the system becomes useless once a good amount of enemies are gunning for you.
As a result, your best bet is to use safe combos and evade while you take out your foes. This, paired with the limited options available to you, means that combat becomes very tedious very quickly, but the game features quite a few aliens, and experimenting with them after you’ve unlocked them helps to take the edge off. The game throws in the occasional boss fight to spice things up, but they aren’t much better. Once you learn a boss’s patterns, things are simply a matter of not getting hit and dealing damage at pre-determined times.
"The character models lack detail, and the environments themselves are extremely repetitive, so you’ll see the same colors, environmental models, and backgrounds quite a bit, and after a while everything begins to blur together."
The various forms fare better out of combat, as does the game itself. The platforming on display is rather rudimentary, but it works, and the game switches it up enough to keep things interesting. For instance, one segment might require you to activate a series of timed platforms by attacking them, while another will task you with clearing obstacles without falling into a pit. This is where most of your alien’s abilities really shine. One alien lets you shoot energy balls mid-jump, which makes the platforming sections a lot more interesting, while another can float, giving you more time to take out an obstacle as you hang precariously over a bottomless pit. As with its combat system, the game features enough diversity here to keep things interesting, at least for a while.
Of course, there are also upgrades to find and items to collect, and the game also features an upgrade system which provides new aliens and abilities should the player collect a specific number of items or accomplish a specific objective while in combat. The upgrades are nice, and can be very helpful as the game goes on, but the collectibles themselves are often useless, so there’s little point in going after them once you have the upgrades you need.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. The art style is nice, but the graphics aren’t very impressive. The character models lack detail, and the environments themselves are extremely repetitive, so you’ll see the same colors, environmental models, and backgrounds quite a bit, and after a while everything begins to blur together. The game also suffers from framerate dips in hectic areas, and as you’d imagine, turning up the 3D exacerbates all of these problems. The sound design fares little better. The music is made up of fairly standard, if unremarkable, actions pieces, and the game doesn’t feature any voice acting outside of a few incredibly repetitive, and rather annoying, catchphrases.
"t’s not the worst licensed game out there, but nothing about it stands out."
Ultimately, there’s no real reason to play Alien Omnibus 2 if you’re not a fan of the series that spawned it. It’s not the worst licensed game out there, but nothing about it stands out. The gameplay systems and environments are tedious, the production values leave a lot to be desired, and the game doesn’t add anything to the larger Ben 10 story. On top of all of that, it’s short and there’s little replay value.
A lot has changed on Cartoon Network since Ben 10 came on the air: Dragon Ball Z received a lackluster sequel series, Naruto became an international phenomenon, and Toonami was canceled and came back with a vengeance. In all that time, however, Cartoon Network still hasn’t been able to create a truly great licensed game from one of their shows, and Ben 10 Omniverse 2 does nothing to buck that trend. Younger fans of the series may find something to like here, but everyone else should stay away.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Nice art style. Sheer amount of aliens keeps things interesting for a while.
Combat is tedious, as is platforming. Levels are repetitive and uninspired. Lackluster visuals and sound design. It’s short. Poor use of 3D. Story is poorly told and does nothing to bring in new players.
Ben 10 Alien Omniverse is a poor licensed title that offers little to anyone who isn’t a fan. Younger players may like some of what it has to offer, but everyone else should stay away.
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